Be really suspicious of a good looking spud…
I knew, once Paul Rankin had uttered those words, that here was someone I could talk to in spud terms.
Scottish-born and Northern Irish-bred, Paul Rankin made a name for himself in the troubled Belfast of the ’80s and ’90s, scoring Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star in 1991 with Roscoff, the restaurant he ran with his then wife, Jeanne.
Cookery books, TV appearances – most recently in the series Paul and Nick’s Big Food Trip, with friend and fellow chef, Nick Nairn – and other restaurant interests followed over the years and, since 2002 Paul has, in partnership with Irwin’s Bakery, lent his name to the Rankin Selection, a range of Irish breads and other products which retail in Ireland and the U.K. (including potato farls, of which more anon). Last March, however, saw the end of an era, when Paul closed the doors of his only remaining restaurant, Cayenne, citing problems caused by the flags protests in Belfast.
Chef Paul Rankin
(image courtesy of Aiken PR)
Unsurprisingly, Paul has a lot to say about restaurants and Belfast and Irish food, and it was my pleasure, a number of weeks back, to chat with him about all of those things, and about Christmas too, and – inevitably – potatoes. He is, as I discovered, a man who is very particular about same.
When Expedia asked me about my favourite places to eat around Ireland, a lederhosen-bedecked part of me could hear Julie Andrews singing about a few of her favourite things in an alpine, Sound of Music setting. Not that I’m about to burst into song or – worse, still – parade about in lederhosen, but you might indulge me, all the same, if I wax just a bit lyrical on the subject of favoured spots for supping.
If the entry for Earth in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was “Mostly harmless,” then my entry – making the rather colossal assumption that I’d have one – would probably read: “Mostly spuds.” However, even if it is (mostly) possible to do so, man – or, in my case, woman – does not live by potato alone, and my favourite food places, inevitably, serve much else besides.
Coming up with a list such as this is always fraught. Through the good offices of this blog, and in being a contributing editor for John and Sally McKennas’ Irish Food Guide, I’ve had the privilege of eating in many fine places indeed, more than I could do justice to here. In the end, the selection below is as much about favourite food people as favourite food places – the one almost invariably determines the other.W.J. KAVANAGH / L. MULLIGAN GROCER
WJ Kavanagh, Dorset St.
It is lucky for me that potatoes in general, and chips in particular, are such versatile creatures. Week after week, they keep me, and this Spud Sunday slot, alive with potatoey possibilities.
A side of chips: methinks every blog post should have some.
These came courtesy of Dublin's Cliff Town House.
It is also lucky for me that, through this blog, I have had the opportunity to experience all kinds of food made by all kinds of people – and not always involving spuds either. A case in point is the invitation that came my way the other day to visit the Cliff Town House – the Dublin outpost of Ardmore’s wonderful Cliff House Hotel – for a masterclass on fish with head chef Seán Smith, followed by a sampling of their new menu, one which has a decidely seafood slant. Safe, nay, smug in the knowledge that, where there was fish, there would also be chips, I packed my bloggy bag and headed along.